The Moffat County Republican delegates to the state assembly could agree they liked three candidates for Congress. The hard part, they said, was choosing the one they liked most.
According to preliminary tallies, former Department of Natural Resources Director Greg Walcher got 305 votes, Rep. Matt Smith of Grand Junction got 230, and the other three candidates fell far short of making the ballot in the GOP primary for the district, which encompasses the Western Slope and extends east to Pueblo.
The consensus before the assembly was that Smith was the best choice, and most of the delegates said they would vote for him to represent the party in August's primary.
When asked why they supported Smith, delegates always gave the same answer: Water.
"I was impressed with Smith's protection of Western Slope water. Water for the Western Slope is life," Moffat County delegate Saed Tayyara said.
"No one else has half the knowledge on water as Matt Smith," Doug Wellman said. In his first trip to the state assembly, Gerald Culverwell said he, too, would support Smith, calling him "a homegrown boy from Meeker."
Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos split with the other Moffat County delegates and supported Walcher.
"No one I've come across does his homework like Greg," Raftopoulos said, referring to the time she worked with him on the State Wildlife Commission.
"He's a strong candidate and has a strong passion for the Western Slope."
Rep. Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs and Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino will petition onto the August ballot. Rippy announced earlier this week that he collected more than the 1,000 signatures required for a petition bid.
But Rippy's decision to petition onto the primary ballot ultimately could hurt him, at least in Moffat County, said Tim Jantz, Moffat County Republican Central Committee chairman.
"Our county's pretty solid with going through the caucus process," Jantz said.
Rippy chose to petition onto the primary ballot, even though he raised the most money of anyone in the race. The candidates' latest filing with the Federal Election Commission show Rippy raised $227,481. Walcher raised $193,123, greatly outpacing Smith at $54,200.
At the Democratic State Assembly in May, Rep. John Salazar of Manassa was the only candidate who collected enough delegate votes to get on the primary ballot. Frequent political candidate Anthony Martinez announced he had collected enough signatures to make the ballot.
Today, the delegates will choose between Bob Schaffer and Pete Coors in a contest for the top line of the primary ballot for Colorado's U.S. Senate seat.
The primary election will be held Aug. 10.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.